Janesville police trace origins of two sunken cars

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Frank Schultz
Thursday, September 14, 2017

JANESVILLE -- Police have tracked down the origins of two cars found in the Rock River in July as authorities were searching for a missing man.

Both cars, a Chevrolet 1972 El Camino and a 1987 Ford Tempo, were stolen in Janesville, said Lt. Terry Sheridan of the police department.

Both were left open, with the keys inside, at or near the owners' homes on the east side of town, Sheridan said.

The El Camino probably was in the deep water above the Centerway Dam for more than 35 years, the Tempo for 20 years.

The El Camino was stolen in 1979 in the 1500 block of Blaine Avenue. The owners were husband and wife, now deceased. A son, who still lived in Janesville, remembers it was stolen overnight.

A woman who worked with the wife said the El Camino was the husband's pride and joy, Sheridan said.

The Tempo was reported stolen in 1997 in the 1200 block of Elida Street, about six blocks from the home of the El Camino's owners.

Police had no suspects in either case, when they were reported. They appear to be crimes of opportunity, Sheridan said.

No other serious crimes were associated with the car thefts, he said.

The state Division of Motor Vehicles had no record of the El Camino, but police worked with an insurance group that tracks stolen vehicles.

The El Camino's vehicle identification number was severely corroded, but because VINs have groups of numbers or letters that stand for the brand, size, type and place of origin of a vehicle, police were able to deduce the digits, Sheridan said.

The DMV did have records of the Tempo, and police talked to the owners, who still live in Janesville, Sheridan said.

The cars were severely damaged from their time in the river and seemed to corrode quickly after being pulled out, so they have no value and will be junked, Sheridan said.

Searchers were using sonar when they detected the vehicles. Divers attached cables to them so they could be pulled out.

The body of the missing Janesville man, Dakota Giese, 21, was found in the river near the Racine Street Bridge the next day.

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